Frank and Tonyia Peasley of Brooksville are among a growing number of entrepreneurs in Maine who are successfully farming oysters — perhaps nature’s sweetest bivalve.
Their Little Island Oyster Co. is based on a tiny island the couple own on the Bagaduce River and it is there that they sort, grade and pack the oysters that they nurture for several seasons to maturity.
Most of their product — small, deep-cupped, briny-sweet — is currently shipped to out-of-state buyers, but the couple plans to increase production and offer more to local markets.
Several operations are producing oysters from local waters up and down the coast, and if you don’t see them at your seafood counter, ask!
OYSTERS ON THE HALF SHELL WITH A SELECTION OF SAUCES
Consult a good basic cookbook or go online for instructions on how best to open fresh oysters — or call ahead and ask the guy at the seafood counter to do it.
About 3 dozen fresh raw oysters
Horseradish, either freshly grated or from a fresh bottle of prepared horseradish
Tabasco sauce or other liquid hot pepper sauce
Mignonette sauce (recipes follow)
Either have the oysters shucked at the fish market or shuck them yourself. Arrange on a large platter on a bed of crushed ice.
Place horseradish, ketchup, lemon wedges and/or mignonette sauce in small bowls, but leave the hot pepper sauce in the bottle. Suggest that guests dress their oysters as they desire. Slurp and eat.
MIGNONETTE SAUCE SAMPLER
Classic mignonette is 1 tablespoon minced shallots stirred into 1/3 cup white wine or champagne vinegar, with cracked black pepper added to taste.
Mango mignonette — Add about 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mango or papaya.
Cranberry mignonette — Add 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cranberries and a pinch of sugar.
Herb mignonette — Add 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro, parsley or tarragon.
Jalapeno mignonette — Add about 2 teaspoons chopped jalapeno or other fresh hot pepper.
Ginger mignonette — Add about 2 teaspoons minced or grated fresh ginger root.
OYSTER STEW WITH SLIVERED SPINACH
For many New Englanders, oyster stew or scalloped oysters is a traditional favorite to serve for a meatless Christmas Eve supper. Threads of bright green spinach add color and bright flavor to this version of classic oyster stew. Oyster crackers or French bread and a salad of hearty greens and halved grape tomatoes are good accompaniments.
3 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 celery rib, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons flour
4 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
1 pint shucked oysters with their liquor
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 cups baby spinach leaves, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a soup pot, heat the butter. Add onion and celery and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until softened, 5 to 8 minutes. Sprinkle on the flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the milk, add the thyme, and bring to a boil, whisking until smooth and lightly thickened.
Add the oysters with their liquor and the Worcestershire sauce. Simmer just until the edges of the oysters curl, 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the spinach and simmer until wilted, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Brooke Dojny is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks, most recently “Lobster!” (Storey, 2012). She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula, and can be contacted via Facebook at: